Do You Know the People You Lead?

I suppose the title of this post is silly because of course you know the people you lead. You know their name. You know their job description and you know…?

What more do you know? You make decisions regarding the people you lead on a daily basis and it’s very possible that when you really stop to think about it you don’t actually know that much about them. 

When was the last time you straight up asked the people you lead what they are passionate about? Have you ever asked them what work they would do for free if they could afford it? Have you ever, even once, asked them how you could honor them or recognize them. When was the last time you asked about their family? What about their hobbies and interests outside of work, when was the last time you asked about that?

Most people in leadership positions say they don’t have time to get to know their people at that level. What they actually mean is that it’s not a priority for them. Authentic Leaders make knowing their people, really knowing them, a top priority. 

They invest time each day, each and every day, to conduct an “innerview” with one or more of the people they lead. It might only be 5 or 10 minutes but they would tell you it’s the most important 5 or 10 minutes of their day. 

It is not an “interview,” that’s what you do when you’re hiring someone. An “innerview” is what you do when you want to know your people on a level that truly allows you to lead them. To know what motivates them. To understand their goals in life. To understand their thinking and their actions. 

Most people would say that their people are their organization’s greatest asset. Then they tell you they can’t spare 5 minutes to invest in that asset. Instead they spend their time on something they said was less important…that is not a recipe for successful leadership.

If knowing your people is not a priority then you may be a boss, you may be a manager, but I’m sorry to tell you it’s unlikely that you’re much of a leader. 

Invest time this very day and each day to get to know the people you lead. Until you do they are probably not really following you and this much is certain, if no one is following then you ain’t leading. 

Get to know your people and Lead Today!

Are You Asking the Right Questions?

When you ask the right questions you receive much better answers in return. I mention that because it’s very challenging to lead people that you do not know. Knowing them requires consistent communication with them and questions are one of the most effective communication tools a leader has.

If.

If they are asking the right questions. As a leader one of your primary responsibilities is to help your people grow. To grow into their potential, to grow into their goals, and to grow into a leader, if that is one of their goals.

Most leaders would agree with all that but here’s the problem. Too few leaders have asked the people they lead any of the questions that would help them understand the goals of their people. Too few leaders ask their people how they can help them stay motivated long enough to reach their potential.

As Clarence the Angel learned in “It’s a Wonderful Life” you have to know something about someone if you’re going to help them. That “something” goes way beyond their hire date, their employee number and their job description.

Leadership is about people. Failing to know your people can cause you to treat them as if they were just another thing in your organization, like a computer or lift truck. They are not things! They are PEOPLE, with wants, needs, issues, hopes and dreams…just like you.

As a leader you must make judgments about your people. As as leader you cannot be judgmental about your people. (If you’re an Authentic Leader you understand the difference) You cannot exercise good judgment about your people without information about them. The best way to get that information is to ask them directly.

That is why I recommend you conduct a periodic innerview with as many of your people as possible. No, I didn’t misspell that. I don’t mean interview. An interview is what you do when you’re trying to hire someone. An innerview is what you do when you’re trying to help someone grow.

Innerviews are quick. 5 minutes or so to ask how someone is doing. Ask about their goals, both personal and professional. Ask about how you can help them. Ask how the organization is doing for them. Ask what you could do to make their job more efficient. Ask about their family and life outside of the workplace. Ask any or all of those questions as time permits. The purpose of those questions is to get an inner view of your people so you’ll know how to help them.

Ask those questions even if your people are a little confused or surprised by them. Once they realize that you are sincerely interested in them as people their answers will improve. So will your ability to help them grow.

Now, here’s why most “leaders” tell me they can’t ask these questions….they say they don’t have time. They often say that immediately after telling me that their people are their greatest asset.

All I can conclude from that is that they intentionally invest their time in less important things than their “greatest asset.”

That does not sound like an effective leadership strategy.

Can you slow down enough to invest critically important time with your people to ask the right questions? If you’re in a leadership position and you truly want to lead then your answer to that question must be a resounding YES!

Five Minutes That Can Change Everything

As you lead you need good judgment. You also cannot afford to be judgmental. That’s never more important than when considering the potential of the people on your team.

If you’re like most leaders you’re always watching your team to determine how effective they are in their roles. That’s good leadership. But good leadership is not good enough if your goal is to grow your organization.

Growing an organization requires great leadership and great leadership requires more than simply watching your people. It requires consistent two-way communication.

If you’re not “out there” interacting and talking with your people in an intentional manner then you’re probably missing out on the information that you need to advance from good to great leadership.

When I say “intentional” I mean very very intentional. You must make it a point to invest time each day, every single day, to learn something about someone on your team. Here’s one way to do that:

Every day invest the time to conduct an innerview, no I didn’t mean interview, I really meant innerview. An interview is what you do when you’re hiring someone. An innerview is what you do when you’re interested in keeping them, and building their success. You must see their motivations and lives from the inside to truly understand why they do what they do.

Invest five minutes a day, every single day to innerview at least one member of your team. Ask about them personally, about their goals, their challenges and most importantly, how you can help them get to where they want to be.

Way too many leaders have told me that the “innerview” is a nice thought but that they just can’t afford the time. This is often right after they have told me that their people are their most important asset.

If you want a great organization then you are going to have to be a great leader. Put your time where your mouth is and don’t just say your people are important, show it. Show it by using the innerview to make certain that when you’re making judgements about your people you know exactly who you are judging.

When you use your point of view to judge your people you’re almost certain to be judgmental. When you use your people’s point of view you can leave the “ment” behind and more clearly judge.

It requires just five minutes a day but it’s five minutes that can change everything about how you evaluate and lead your people.